Tar Heels in NFL: Big NFL debut for Antonio Williams; several UNC alums make playoffs

By R.L. Bynum

The feel-good Week 17 story for Carolina fans was Antonio Williams’ NFL debut for the Buffalo Bills.

In the Bills’ 56–26 home win over the Miami Dolphins, Williams ran for 63 yards and two touchdowns and caught a pass for 20 more yards.

It was an impressive first game for Williams, who began his career at Ohio State before transferring to UNC after two seasons. He was on and off of Buffalo’s practice squad all season before finally playing Sunday. Williams originally signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent after the 2020 NFL draft.

In that game, the Bills’ Andre Smith forced the Dolphins’ Mack Hollins to fumble after Hollins’ only reception of the game.

Buffalo (13–3), as the No. 2 AFC seed, is host to No. 7 Indianapolis (11–5) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.

Mitch Trubisky came into the day hoping to lead his Chicago Bears to a home victory over the Green Bay Packers to clinch a playoff spot. The Bears lost 35–16, but still made the playoffs thanks to the Arizona Cardinals’ 18–7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Trubisky connected on 33 of 42 passes for 252 yards, an interception and no touchdowns.

The No. 7 NFC seed Bears (8–8) visit the No. 2-seed New Orleans Saints (12–4)  in the first round at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.

Cole Holcomb had six tackles and an assist to help Washington beat Philadelphia 20–13 to earn the NFC East title and a playoff spot. As the No. 4 seed, Washington (7–9) gets a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11–5) at 8:15 Saturday night.

Also in the playoffs are the Cleveland Browns (11–5) after a 24–22 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. M.J. Stewart had three tackles, an assist and an interception he returned 30 yards for the Browns. The No. 6-seed Browns play on the road against the No. 3 Pittsburgh (12–4) at 8:15 p.m. Sunday.

Eric Ebron was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and didn’t play Sunday for the Steelers.

Tre Boston had four tackles, six assists and a sack in the Carolina Panthers’ season-ending 33–7 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

How Tar Heels fared in Week 17

PlayerPosition, team, statusSeason statistics
Mitch TrubiskyQB, Bears, active
35–16 loss vs. GBStarted; 33-42-1, 252 yards 0 TDs; 4 rushes, 22 yards; 81. 7 rating199-297-8 2,055, 16 TDs; 33 carries for 195 yards, 1 TD, 93.5 rating
Antonio WilliamsRB, Bills, active
56–26 win vs. MiaDidn’t start; 12 carries, 63 yards, 2 TDs; 1 catch on 1 target for 20 yardsSunday’s game was his first
Eric EbronTE, Steelers active
24–22 loss at CleDidn’t play56 catches for 558 yards, 5 TDs
Gio BernardRB, Bengals, active
38–3 loss vs. BalStarted; 3 carries for 7 yards; 1 target, no catches124 carries for 416 yards, 3 TDs; 47 catches for 355 yards, 3 TDs
Cole HolcombLB, Washington, active
20–13 win at PhiStarted; 6 tackles, 1 assist43 tackles, 27 assists, 2.5 sacks
James HurstLG, Saints, active
33–7 win at CarDidn’t start; reported as tackle-eligible 13 timesPlayed in 12 games
Mack HollinsWR, Dolphins, active
56–26 loss at BuffDidn’t start; 1 catch on 1 target for 3 yards before fumbling15 catches for 173 yards and 1 TD; 1 tackle, 2 assists
Tre BostonFS, Panthers, active
33–7 loss vs. NOStarted; 4 tackles, 6 assists, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss58 tackles, 35 assists, 1 sack
Robert QuinnLB, Bears, active
35–16 loss vs. GBStarted; 1 tackle, 1 assist, 1 QB hit14 tackles, 6 assists, 2 sacks
Andre SmithLB, Bills, active,
56–26 win vs. MiaForced a fumble; 4 tackles, 1 assist, 1 tackle for a loss8 tackles, 1 assist, 1 special teams tackle, 1 forced fumble
M.J. StewartCB, Browns, active
24–22 win vs. PittDidn’t start; 1 interception returned for 30 yards; 3 tackles, 1 assist18 tackles, 4 assists, 2 interceptions, 1 sack
Jason StrowbridgeDE, Dolphins, active
56–26 loss at BuffDidn’t start; had no statistics1 tackle, 2 assists
Charlie HeckOT, Texans, active
41–38 loss vs. TitansStarted at right tackleHas played in 3 games
Sylvester WilliamsDT, Broncos, active
32–31 loss vs. LVDidn’t start; 1 tackle4 tackle; 5 assists; 1 tackle on 2-point conversion attempt
Jake BargasFB, Vikings, active
37–35 loss at DetDidn’t playNo statistics in only game
Aaron CrawfordDT, Ravens, practice squad
R.J. PrinceOG, Ravens, practice squad
Bug HowardTE, Jaguars, practice squad
Ryan SwitzerWR, Browns, practice squad
Kareem MartinOLB, Lions, practice squad
William SweetOT, 49ers, practice squad
T.J. LoganRB, Bucs, IR (out for season with leg injury)
Myles DornFS, Vikings, IR
Jalen DaltonDT, Saints, IR
Russell BodineC, Lions, opted out of season

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